Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Writing What Haunts You, a guest post by Anuradha Rajurkar and the Class of 2kBooks

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at,
what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
-Joan Didion

Often, the germ of an idea for a story materializes from themes that haunt us for years, though we may not realize it at first. Writing helps us explore our deepest fears, our burning questions, and can ultimately serve as the beating heart of our stories. My debut, AMERICAN BETIYA, for example, explores cultural conflict within our most intimate relationships—a theme that rose from having grown up in predominantly white spaces as the daughter of first-generation Asian immigrant parents. I was initially drawn to the idea of the many ways teens are often under close scrutiny, despite the fact that our identities at that stage are still very much under construction—and how these pressures can lead to escapism in various forms. But soon, my writing delved deep into issues that only later did I realize had haunted me for decades.

I asked my fellow Class of 2k Books authors to share what issues just wouldn’t let go, leading to the writing of their debuts. Their answers were as thoughtful and compelling as their novels…

Megan Freeman: I certainly never imagined that ALONE, my book about surviving in total isolation, would come out during a pandemic. Yikes. But the idea of being isolated from other people has always fascinated/haunted me. I love the movie CASTAWAY and I was fascinated by books like ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS and MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN and HATCHET. I used to think being in prison and forcibly kept away from my family would be the worst thing I could imagine, but then one day I thought about people who go into witness protection programs and can never see their friends or family ever again, and that seemed even worse. Clearly, my connections to loved ones are central to some sense of security, and the threat of losing that connection is rich fodder for my creative imagination. 

Sam Taylor: After grad school, I worked at a job with some people who turned out to be very corrupt. It was a really thorny situation; I often had no idea how to fix matters at work, or what was the right thing to do. I turned to writing in the evenings as a way to vent out my feelings. I needed a story that captured the dilemma of wanting to make situations better, but not knowing how to do that. I wanted to explore the struggle of every option coming with steep cost–because the right choice often doesn’t come without a price. I wanted to show unlikely allies coming together, as I experienced during my own situation. Most of all, I wanted to show my characters overcoming the seemingly impossible odds stacked against them.

Jessica S. Olson: It’s a funny thing, because I didn’t realize what it was that drove me to write this story until well after it was finished. All I knew was that I connected deeply to the Phantom character in the Phantom of the Opera, and I wanted to tell a version of his story and explore what could drive someone to such a dark, lonely place. It wasn’t until later on that I realized that the reason I’d been so passionate about his story was because I identified with him. I was born with a medical eye condition that affects my appearance, and I grew up being bullied and teased and treated as “other” because of it. There were many times when I wished I could hide from a world that felt very cruel–and so I saw myself in the Phantom. I understood how it felt to be ostracized for your appearance and how desperate the desire can sometimes be to be loved for the aspects of us that aren’t readily apparent at first glance. Telling a female Phantom’s story meant drawing on my own experiences, my own anger, my own hope, and asking the world to look beyond someone’s face when deciding whether they’re valid or whether they deserve love.

Xiran Jay Zhao: My book IRON WIDOW, a Pacific Rim meets THE HANDMAID’S TALE reimagining of the only female emperor in Chinese history, is basically 400 pages of female rage. Around the time I wrote it, I kept hearing about women’s rights backsliding in so many places. I also happened to be taking 4 university courses in different subjects ranging from political science to gerontology, yet all 4 had info on how women are disproportionately expected to take on certain burdens and responsibilities, yet get no proper credit or recognition for them. Work that is traditionally more female-dominated is consistently overlooked and undervalued compared to work that is traditionally more male-dominated. I wrote Iron Widow not only to vent my rage through the character of Zetian, but to explore the kind of societal pressures that force girls to doubt their own worth and accept this kind of thankless work.

Anuradha D. Rajurkar:

Judging from these thoughts from my fellow Class of 2kbooks authors, it seems that some of the most impactful stories are born from themes that have haunted our minds for years. Since high school, I personally was so affected by the idea that the way we see ourselves is often at odds with how others see us. For me, researching and writing AMERICAN BETIYA helped reveal the ways microaggressions, cultural fetishization, and racial gaslighting occur with regularity—even in our closest relationships. And because trust is foundational in these relationships, it’s easy to overlook their signs. Writing my debut helped me acknowledge the silences we’ve been taught to hold, and that our friendships, family and internal strength can line the path to our empowerment.

Don’t be afraid to write what haunts you. It might just be what sets you free.

Buy links and more

Order ALONE by Megan Freeman
Add ALONE to your Goodreads


Order WE ARE THE FIRE by Sam Taylor
Add WE ARE THE FIRE to your Goodreads


Order SING ME FORGOTTEN by Jessica S. Olson
Add SING ME FORGOTTEN to your Goodreads


Pre-order IRON WIDOW
Add IRON WIDOW to your Goodreads


Order AMERICAN BETIYA

Add AMERICAN BETIYA to your Goodreads

Cindy Crushes Programming: Five Thoughts on the (Very Slow) March to the End of the Pandemic, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

At my library, we are all excited about the vaccines hitting our area. I am half vaccinated. I am so excited about what is to come but I know that the pandemic is certainly not over yet. We have new strains popping up around the country and since schools have gone back in session there has been an increase in positivity rates. We also serve a population that can not get vaccinated yet, so we have to be even more careful. How is the process toward in person programming looking at your library? Here’s a look at what we’ve been thinking about as we plan programming for the future of 2021.

Outdoor Programming

We are doing outdoor programming starting in the summer. We are hoping to have our program Dog Days of Summer which is an annual pet adoption event. We will still require social distancing and masks of course. Our children’s department is looking at doing outside messy crafts. We plan to have an outdoor volunteering opportunity during the summer and have teens pick up trash in our courtyard and improve our children’s garden.

My niece Julia and her dog Brock at a past dog days.

Avoiding High Touch Programs

We will still have to avoid programs that are high touch such as crafts where supplies would be shared. I do not have enough scissors for everyone one to do crafts so I plan on avoiding in person craft and continuing doing take and make at my library. Make and Take programs have the added benefit of allowing our teens to do programming on their own time.

Keep an Eye on Infection Rates

As we have learned the positivity rate for Covid can go up at any time. The pandemic is not over just because we are over it. All libraries will have to continue to pay attention to local infections rates and be open to cancelling at a moment’s notice should the need to arise. Patron, staff and community safety should always come first.

Keep Things Online

Not everyone can come to the library. We are going to keep doing online programming forever now. We want to keep our D and D online, since it is high touch and also continue to do digital escape rooms. I plan to keep TAG online for the foreseeable future, because we have learned teens like having a chance to do their volunteer hours at all hours. Not everyone can get a ride to the library and this helps them be able to do their hours without having to get a ride from their parents or guardian. Online programming has made library programming more accessible for a large number of previously under-served patrons.

Find Programs That You Can Do

One program we are thinking about is doing Kahoot trivia in the library. It would be easy to set up in our large programming room and have the teens social distance and have them use their devices such as their Chromebooks or phones to answer the trivia while we project it on our big screen. As we look for continued ways to address the pandemic, we will all have to continue to practice and be an example of best safety practices.

What are your plans for the year? Are you doing in person programming and how are you doing it? Also how are you making it accessible for all patrons? We are trying to balance that many teens have been doing well with a lot of our online programming and we want to keep serving those teens. We have seen this a lot at our Crest Hill Branch which is hard for patrons to get to. We noticed a lot more teens from Crest Hill doing virtual programming. We find we are serving different patrons. What is your end of Covid plan?

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

Book Review: Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Publisher’s description

Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.


When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single. 

But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father. She knew he left when she was little due to a drug addiction. But no one told her he had schizophrenia or that he was currently living on the streets of New York City. 

She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed. 

Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow her dreams despite the risks?

Amanda’s thoughts

While certainly not an easy read, this is an important one because of how it looks at the mental health and justice systems. When Sydney learns that her long-absent father has schizophrenia and has been living on the streets for most of her life, she’s devastated. Not only is she heartbroken for her father, but she doesn’t understand how something so big was kept from her. Her mother says that when Sydney was younger, she didn’t know how to address it, and as she got older, she didn’t want to burden Sydney, already prone to lots of anxiety, with this information. Of course, since many mental health issues are hereditary, it’s important that Sydney know the truth. She spends a lot of time googling and basically finds all of the worst case scenarios for people with schizophrenia. And, unsurprisingly, when she learns that there’s a roughly 10% chance that she may inherit this illness, she becomes consumed with worry, looking for signs and symptoms all the time.

Sydney is still trying to live her life and figure out what her impending move to college will bring while trying to grapple with this new information about her dad, her family, and her own health. She’s hanging out with her gay BFF Elliot, sometimes singing in his band, going around and around with her mother about choosing to take her grandparents’ money and go to NYU instead of staying closer to home, and falling for a cute musician. But the news of her dad has rocked her world. She needs to understand his past, what her grandparents and mother did to help him, and what it means now that she knows all this. She learns about his stints in rehab and halfway houses, his refusal to take his medications, his many arrests, and the ways his generally untreated schizophrenia manifests. She and Elliot go to NYC to try to find him and learn while there that he’s in a hospital with liver failure.

It’s all a lot for Sydney to process and she can’t help feeling like everyone failed her dad. Understandably, she is also so, so worried about her future and what that would mean for all of her relationships. Thankfully, Sydney’s family gets her into therapy and puts her on a path to getting help for her own anxiety and depression as well as now having someone who can help monitor her mental health knowing her family history. While her dad truly is living out kind of the worst of all scenarios for someone with untreated mental health issues, Sydney is able to see a different future for herself, no matter what may happen with her own health. The reveal of this big family secret opens up her relationships with her own family members and helps her see more clearly what she wants out of life.

This educational and emotional look at schizophrenia is compelling, complex, and well executed. While Sydney is rather obsessed with the darkest paths schizophrenia could lead a person down, she is repeatedly reassured that many people live quiet, relatively “regular” lives while also having schizophrenia. As readers learn the many ways her grandparents tried to help her father, they will grow to understand just how complicated it can be to try to get mental health help and support especially when someone is unwilling or unable to accept that help. A thought-provoking read.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781641291156
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/06/2021
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Recent YA Novels to Take You Around the World, a guest post by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

One of the many things I love about reading is the way books transport me to different worlds. Whether it’s interesting family dynamics, industries I know little about, or long-gone eras, I will always cherish how books allow me to lead lives completely unlike my own for a few hours. That feeling is true of all novels, but it’s especially compelling when the story is set against a vivid backdrop somewhere around the world, with a sense of place so rich that it acts as a character in the novel.

With my own story, Kisses and Croissants, about an aspiring ballerina who moves to Paris for a summer intensive dance program, I wanted to make the setting shine as brightly as possible. There are many novels set in France—not to mention all the movies and TV shows—and I felt inspired to give Mia a deeply authentic and utterly unforgettable experience in, objectively, the most beautiful city in the world.

I wrote Kisses and Croissants between 2017 and 2019, going on a research trip to Paris and spending much time afterward exploring the city virtually so I could best bring it to life. Of course, I could never imagine that the world would feel very differently by the time it was published in April 2021. Many of us have been eager to be able to travel again, to wander aimlessly through foreign places, and to finally discover the ones that have been on our bucket list forever.

But we’ll always have books. And as I spent the last year daydreaming about leaving my apartment, let alone my neighborhood, I was pleased to come across several wonderful young adult novels with powerful stories set all over the world: from a multi-cultural suburb in Toronto to the white-sandy beaches of Santorini, and from the magical arctic island of Svalbard to glitzy palaces in Tokyo.

With these recent releases, you’ll go on a whirlwind journey around the planet, no passport necessary.

Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce (England)

Summary: This enchanting teen romance novel, which follows one girl across the Atlantic in a quest to find adventure, love (preferably with a guy with a cute accent), and maybe even herself, is perfect for fans of Kasie West and Stephanie Perkins. After a horrifying public rejection by her crush, Ellie Nichols does what any girl would do: she flees the country. To be more precise, she joins her high school’s study abroad trip to England. While most of her classmates are there to take honors courses and pad their college applications, Ellie is on a quest to rebuild her reputation and self-confidence. And nothing is more of a confidence booster than getting a hot British boyfriend.

Hot British Boyfriend is an anglophile’s paradise. When Ellie and her friends are not devouring fish and chips and sipping tea (with scones and finger sandwiches, obviously), they are roaming the halls and gardens of the stunning manor at which they are boarding, inspired by the real Harlaxton Manor in Lincolnshire. Outside school, they watch Quidditch games, explore charming village markets, and skip through the quaint English countryside. On weekends, they take London and its most famous sights by storm, from Big Ben to the London Eye, by way of Piccadilly Circus. Spoiler alert: there’s even a romantic weekend in Venice, complete with gondola rides.

Like Home by Louisa Onomé (Toronto, Canada)

Summary: Fans of Netflix’s On My Block, In the Heightsand readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Ibi Zoboi will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws her relationships and even her neighborhood into turmoil.

Nelo is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo’s good. Only, Kate’s parents’ corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core.

Like Home is set in a fictional suburb of Toronto, Ginger East, but written with the authentic and loving flair of Louisa Onomé’s own neighborhood in the Greater Toronto Area (or the GTA, as the locals call it). Her diverse and endearing cast of characters sometimes hang out at the Eaton Centre, the well-known downtown mall, speak in regional slang, and more generally embody the vibrant youth culture specific to the city. Louisa Onomé infused the story with some of her own multi-cultural upbringing—living on the same street as families from all over the world, from her native Nigeria to Taiwan, and from Jamaica to Serbia, where they shared enriching experiences eating their favorite foods. Toronto shines as cosmopolitan and welcoming city.

The Wide Starlight by Nicole Lesperance (Svalbard, Norway)

Summary: The Hazel Wood meets The Astonishing Color of After in this dreamy, atmospheric novel that follows sixteen-year-old Eli as she tries to remember what truly happened the night her mother disappeared off a glacier in Norway.

When Eli was six years old, her mother took her out onto a frozen fjord, whistled to the Northern Lights, and was swept away into the sky. Ten years later, Eli whistles at the lights and her mother returns, but nothing is quite right. She must piece together her memories, told as Norwegian folk tales, and journey back to Svalbard to figure out what really happened.

Svalbard is so eerily stunning and colorful that, when looking at pictures, you might be tempted to doubt that it is an actual place on earth. Yet, this Norwegian archipelago way up in the Arctic Circle, close to the North Pole, is very real. In fact, its biggest town, Longyearbyen, is home to people hailing from many different nationalities. It was the most perfect setting for part of Nicole Lesperance’s wintery story, where reality and fantasy blend against a magical backdrop of snow, ice, and the Northern Lights. Between the grand mountains, the glass-flat fjords, and the narwhals, The Wide Starlight feels like it takes places on another planet.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean (Tokyo, Japan)

Summary: Crazy Rich Asians meets The Princess Diaries in this irresistible story about Izumi, a Japanese-American girl who discovers her senior year of high school that she’s really a princess of Japan.

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess. In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras.

Japanese culture is incredibly rich with centuries-old traditions, gorgeous attire, and intricate rituals. When you throw in a deep dive into one of the oldest royal families in the world, Emiko Jean’s fun and sparkling writing, and a spunky heroine, you’re swept right off your feet into a head-spinning fairytale. It’s hard not to dream of being a princess when there are glitzy palaces, ancient castles, trips to historic Kyoto, and jaw-dropping cherry blossoms as far as the eye can see. Emiko Jean tells a story of hilarious antics set against a regimented world, with fascinating details that will make you want to book a trip, even if there is no red carpet at the other end.

Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass (Trinidad and Tobago)

Summary: Inspired by Jane Austen’s PersuasionWhere the Rhythm Takes You is a romantic, mesmerizing novel of first love and second chances, set in the author’s native Trinidad and Tobago. Reyna’s life changed forever two years ago, when her mother died and her best friend (first kiss, first love) Aiden, suddenly moved to America. Now Aiden has returned to their island as an international pop star, but the last thing Reyna wants to do is risk her heart again.

Sarah Dass chose to set the story in her homeland of Tobago, the more isolated and quieter island of this Caribbean nation near Venezuela. Reyna grew up at a seaside resort, and ends up as a tour guide to Aiden and his friends, showing them around the island’s most beautiful spots, to the beat of soca music. The lush tropical setting glimmers with powdery white sand, turquoise water, and rich vegetation. Beautiful details leap off the page as the group visits Pigeon Point beach, the Nylon Pool, and the Argyle waterfalls. Local cuisine also features heavily, with mouth-watering descriptions of guava pies, potato rotis, and rosy-pink rum punch. Where the Rhythm Takes You is the breezy, beautiful, and romantic Caribbean vacation we all crave.

Love and Olives by Jenna Evans Welch (Santorini, Greece)

Summary: Liv Varanakis doesn’t like to think about her father much, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight, leaving her with just a few painful memories of their shared love for the lost city of Atlantis. So when teenage Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father, who explains that National Geographic is supporting a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and asks if she will fly out to Greece and help—Liv is less than thrilled.

Even so, she can’t help but be charmed by everything Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the sun-drenched villages, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.

With her “Love” trilogy, Jenna Evans Welch has taken us on a delightfully escapist tour of Europe, first to Italy, then to Ireland, and now to Greece, more specifically to the alluring island of Santorini. It’s a major tourist destination for a reason: the white houses with blue domes look stunning against the bold sunsets, the winding streets of its pretty villages make for idyllic strolls. Love and Olives is summer in book form, as we follow the search for the lost city of Atlantis, Liv’s conflicted relationship with her father and, of course, a cute romance, too.

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen (Taipei, Taiwan)

Summary: When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since he was nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually nicknamed Loveboat, because the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?

Sometimes you have to fly to the other side of the world to discover who you are. It’s true in real life, especially for children of immigrants, who often grow up between two cultures, and it’s also a fascinating theme to explore in young adult literature. Taipei is a melting-pot of a city, with Chinese roots and a decidedly modern and vibrant atmosphere. As such, it makes a thrilling setting for this story about teenage rebellion. There are fun visits to night markets, plenty of hookups, deliciously intriguing foods, and the parties are wild (as well as wildly entertaining).

Meet the author

Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau is a bilingual French author of young adult fiction and nonfiction. Her books have been translated into seven languages. Kisses and Croissants (Delacorte Press, 2021)is her U.S. debut. After graduating university in France, she moved to Amsterdam to begin a career in advertising. She then spent a few years in Melbourne before settling in New York City, where she lives with her Australian husband and their American cat.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://www.asjouhanneau.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/asjouhanneau

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asjouhanneau/

About Kisses and Croissants

As sweet as a macaron from Laduree, with writing as crisp as a freshly baked baguette, this romantic novel set in Paris about an American ballerina and a charming French boy is parfait for fans of American Royals and Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Mia Jenrow has always known she’s destined to be a professional ballerina. In fact, it’s in her blood—according to family legend, her too-many-greats-to-count-grandmother once danced for the Paris Opera and was painted by Degas himself! Her parents say it’s just a fantasy, but to Mia it’s so much more than that. It’s her fate.

Mia is planning to spend a magical summer in France pursuing her dream, but as she pirou-ettes into Paris, she soon realizes it may be a bit more complicated than she hoped. For starters, there’s her rival, Audrey, who will stop at nothing to show her up. There’s her ballet instructor, whose impossibly high standards push her to the breaking point. And then . . . there’s Louis. Devastatingly, distractingly charming Louis. He’s eager to show Mia his city—and Mia is more than happy to hop on his Vespa and wrap her arms around him as they pass the gleaming lights of the Eiffel Tower.

Mia’s summer was supposed to be about ballet—but there’s a reason Paris is called the City of Love. . . .

ISBN-13: 9780593173572
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 04/06/2021
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years

#FactsMatter: Great Graphic Nonfiction for Students Who Love Information and Real World Stories, by Librarian Alison

Today, as part of our #FactsMatter spotlight on nonfiction, we have a guest post by a librarian in New York City named Alison. She is here today to talk with us about nonfiction presented in graphic novel format.

In elementary school libraries, the nonfiction section is just as popular, if not moreso, than the fiction section. Students love learning new information about the world and sharing those new facts with others. When they have time to browse, they’ll happily rush to the nonfiction shelves to grab books about animals, or space, or sports, or whatever topic seems interesting to them at the moment.

As students get older, I’ve noticed, that love for nonfiction isn’t as obvious in the library anymore. While this is purely anecdotal, I’ve observed that middle and high school students are far less likely to rush to the nonfiction section when looking for their next book to read. Is this because their love of facts and information has waned with age? This seems unlikely. Rather, I think it could be the result of a few different factors. First, I think sometimes librarians focus their nonfiction collection development efforts on books that will support their school’s curriculum needs, rather than books students may want to read for fun. While this is absolutely important, it can mean that students associate the nonfiction section with stuff they have to do for school instead of things they want to read about. Second, nonfiction books can be more challenging for students to read. They can have dense text and specialized vocabulary, and just generally seem more intimidating to students.

So, is there a way for our middle and high school students who have gravitated away from the nonfiction section to rediscover, or discover for the first time, their love of nonfiction? Definitely! And I think one great way to do that is through graphic nonfiction. While there are lots of great narrative nonfiction books and informational texts being written for tween and teens these days, books in graphic format are an accessible and engaging way for students to (re)discover nonfiction. Graphic nonfiction, with its reliance on pictures telling the story as much, if not more, than words, presents facts and information in a way that can be easier for students to grasp, especially visual learners, English language learners, and others who might struggle with more traditional formats of nonfiction.

Many students are already big fans of graphic novels; they love reading stories told in both words and pictures, and so this format is familiar to and beloved by many tweens and teens. These graphic novel lovers may be more interested in and willing to try a nonfiction book if it’s in a format they already enjoy, so this is another way to guide students back to the nonfiction section. Students who love graphic novels set in space, for example, may enjoy graphic nonfiction texts about astronauts, while those who enjoy historical fiction might be excited to pick up Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, and students who love realistic fiction could really get into many of the graphic memoirs available.

While graphic texts are an excellent way for tweens and teens to access nonfiction for pleasure reading, they are also a useful teaching tool. Graphic nonfiction not only uses visual storytelling and engaging writing to help students understand complex topics and take in information, but this medium can also be a good way to introduce difficult ideas or topics. Graphic nonfiction texts can help ease students into discussions and lessons on particularly challenging or distressing topics. Additionally, the use of graphic nonfiction in the classroom may serve as encouragement for students to pursue their personal interests in nonfiction as well.

So, where should you begin when it comes to graphic nonfiction? Well, I’ve created a list of some great graphic nonfiction texts full of interesting and engaging content, all of which would make great additions to many middle or high school library collections. (Note: I have chosen not to include some more well known graphic nonfiction, like Persepolis and the March Trilogy, because they are already quite popular, but please know that despite their absence from this list, they are great choices too!) So, here are some wonderful graphic nonfiction texts (all book descriptions are from the publishers):

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha (Gr. 7 & Up)-For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.

Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

This nonfiction graphic novel with four starred reviews is an excellent choice for teens and also accelerated tween readers, both for independent reading and units on immigration, memoirs, and the search for identity.

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (Gr. 5 & Up)-The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years to catch up, but soon NASA’s first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trail-blazing women of Group 9, NASA’s first mixed gender class, had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman’s place is in space, but they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for everyone.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy and Whitney Gardner (Gr. 6 & Up)-Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a modern feminist icon—a leader in the fight for equal treatment of girls and women in society and the workplace. She blazed trails to the peaks of the male-centric worlds of education and law, where women had rarely risen before.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said that true and lasting change in society and law is accomplished slowly, one step at a time. This is how she has evolved, too. Step by step, the shy little girl became a child who questioned unfairness, who became a student who persisted despite obstacles, who became an advocate who resisted injustice, who became a judge who revered the rule of law, who became…RBG.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (Gr. 8 & Up)-Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys, Michel Chikwanine, and Claudia Davila (Gr. 5 & Up)-Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his school-yard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world, and this book is part of that effort.

Told in the first person and presented in a graphic novel format, the gripping story of Michel’s experience is moving and unsettling. But the humanity he exhibits in the telling, along with Claudia Dávila’s illustrations, which evoke rather than depict the violent elements of the story, makes the book accessible for this age group and, ultimately, reassuring and hopeful. The back matter contains further information, as well as suggestions for ways children can help. This is a perfect resource for engaging youngsters in social studies lessons on global awareness and social justice issues, and would easily spark classroom discussions about conflict, children’s rights and even bullying. Michel’s actions took enormous courage, but he makes clear that he was and still is an ordinary person, no different from his readers. He believes everyone can do something to make the world a better place, and so he shares what his father told him: “If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (Gr. 8 & Up)-Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix (Gr. 7 & Up)-Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party’s evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!

In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to help free the German people from oppression during World War II.

The History of the World in Comics by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu and Adrienne Barman (Gr. 5 & Up)-A paleontologist and a storyteller take two children through the birth of our planet, the beginning of microbes, and through the heydays of protozoans, dinosaurs, and early mammals with unfailing enthusiasm.

The art accurately portrays animal species and prehistoric landscapes, includes maps and infographics, but also adds humorous touches: a google-eyed prehistoric fish looking startled to be walking on land and the children popping out of a tree top to surprise a Brachiosaurus.

The combined expertise of author Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu, a science writer and biologist, and illustrator Adriene Barman, the creator behind Creaturepedia and Plantopedia, makes for a science read you can trust.

Fans of Maris Wicks’s Human Body Theater and Nathan Hale will be pleased.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña (Gr. 7 & Up)-Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City in 1942, the oldest of 13 children. When tragedy struck Iturbide as a young mother, she turned to photography for solace and understanding. From then on Iturbide embarked on a photographic journey that has taken her throughout her native Mexico, from the Sonora Desert to Juchitán to Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, to the United States, India, and beyond. Photographic is a symbolic, poetic, and deeply personal graphic biography of this iconic photographer. Iturbide’s journey will excite readers of all ages as well as budding photographers, who will be inspired by her resolve, talent, and curiosity.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (Gr. 6 & Up)-Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves.

Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities by Mady G and J.R. Zuckerberg (Gr. 9 & Up)-In this quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities, cartoonists Mady G and JR Zuckerberg guide you through the basics of the LGBT+ world! Covering essential topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships, this guide explains the spectrum of human experience through informative comics, interviews, worksheets, and imaginative examples. A great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys!

(Note: There are several more books in the ‘Quick & Easy Guide’ series that would also be great additions to graphic nonfiction collections: A Quick & Easy Guide to Asexuality, A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent, and A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability)

Smash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider by Sara Latta and Jeff Weigel (Gr. 7 & Up)-What is the universe made of? At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, scientists have searched for answers to this question using the largest machine in the world: the Large Hadron Collider. It speeds up tiny particles, then smashes them together—and the collision gives researchers a look at the building blocks of the universe.

Nick and Sophie, two cousins, are about to visit CERN for a tour of the mysteries of the cosmos. Sophie’s a physics wiz. Nick, not so much. But by the time they’re through, Nick and Sophie will both feel the power of hidden particles, fundamental forces, dark matter, and more. It’s all a blast in this mind-blowing graphic novel!

Strange Fruit Volume 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill (Gr. 8 & Up)-Strange Fruit Volume I is a collection of stories from early African American history that represent the oddity of success in the face of great adversity. Each of the nine illustrated chapters chronicles an uncelebrated African American hero or event. From the adventures of lawman Bass Reeves, to Henry “Box” Brown’s daring escape from slavery.

The Stuff of Life : A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon (Gr. 10 & Up)-Let’s face it: From adenines to zygotes, from cytokinesis to parthenogenesis, even the basics of genetics can sound utterly alien. So who better than an alien to explain it all? Enter Bloort 183, a scientist from an asexual alien race threatened by disease, who’s been charged with researching the fundamentals of human DNA and evolution and laying it all out in clear, simple language so that even his slow-to-grasp-the-point leader can get it. In the hands of the award-winning writer Mark Schultz, Bloort’s predicament becomes the means of giving even the most science-phobic reader a complete introduction to the history and science of genetics that’s as easy to understand as it is entertaining to read.

Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown (Gr. 9 & Up)-It is, perhaps, the perfect video game. Simple yet addictive, Tetris delivers an irresistible, unending puzzle that has players hooked. Play it long enough and you’ll see those brightly colored geometric shapes everywhere. You’ll see them in your dreams.

Alexey Pajitnov had big ideas about games. In 1984, he created Tetris in his spare time while developing software for the Soviet government. Once Tetris emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, it was an instant hit. Nintendo, Atari, Sega—game developers big and small all wanted Tetris. A bidding war was sparked, followed by clandestine trips to Moscow, backroom deals, innumerable miscommunications, and outright theft.

In this graphic novel,New York Times–bestselling author Box Brown untangles this complex history and delves deep into the role games play in art, culture, and commerce. For the first time and in unparalleled detail, Tetris: The Games People Play tells the true story of the world’s most popular video game.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker (Gr. 7 & Up)-George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do? To answer these questions, George Takei joins co-writers Justin Eisinger & Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker for the journey of a lifetime.

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (Gr. 8 & Up)-In the tradition of two-time Sibert honor winner Don Brown’s critically acclaimed, full-color nonfiction graphic novels The Great American Dust Bowl and Drowned City, The Unwanted is an important, timely, and eye-opening exploration of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, exposing the harsh realities of living in, and trying to escape, a war zone.

Starting in 2011, refugees flood out of war-torn Syria in Exodus-like proportions. The surprising flood of victims overwhelms neighboring countries, and chaos follows. Resentment in host nations heightens as disruption and the cost of aid grows. By 2017, many want to turn their backs on the victims. The refugees are the unwanted.

Don Brown depicts moments of both heartbreaking horror and hope in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. Shining a light on the stories of the survivors, The Unwanted is a testament to the courage and resilience of the refugees and a call to action for all those who read.

What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis, Thalia Wallis, and Joseph Wilkins (Gr. 8 & Up)-While seemingly straightforward, Tia and Bryony hadn’t considered this subject too seriously until it comes up in conversation with their friends and they realize just how important it is.

Following the sexual assault of a classmate, a group of teenage girls find themselves discussing the term consent, what it actually means for them in their current relationships, and how they act and make decisions with peer influence. Joined by their male friends who offer another perspective, this rich graphic novel uncovers the need for more informed conversations with young people around consent and healthy relationships. Accompanying the graphics are sexual health resources for students and teachers, which make this a perfect tool for broaching the subject with teens.

I hope this list has given you some ideas for adding graphic nonfiction to your collection. If you have a favorite graphic nonfiction text that wasn’t included, please share in the comments!

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Alison is the Middle and Upper School Librarian at an independent school in New York City. She has worked in school libraries for 8 years, with students from ages 3-18. She loves reading and learning, and helping students find the perfect book. When she’s not in the library, she enjoys baking, traveling, and spending time with her two cats, Molly and Minerva. You can find more of Alison’s musings about books and libraries on her website msginthelibrary.com, on Twitter @msginthelibrary, or on Instagram @msginthelibrary.

Book Review: No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves by Lee Wind

Publisher’s description

“History” sounds really official. Like it’s all fact. Like it’s definitely what happened.

But that’s not necessarily true. History was crafted by the people who recorded it. And sometimes, those historians were biased against, didn’t see, or couldn’t even imagine anyone different from themselves.

That means that history has often left out the stories of LGBTQIA+ people: men who loved men, women who loved women, people who loved without regard to gender, and people who lived outside gender boundaries. Historians have even censored the lives and loves of some of the world’s most famous people, from William Shakespeare and Pharaoh Hatshepsut to Cary Grant and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Join author Lee Wind for this fascinating journey through primary sources—poetry, memoir, news clippings, and images of ancient artwork—to explore the hidden (and often surprising) Queer lives and loves of two dozen historical figures.

Amanda’s thoughts

This book is a great and rather unique addition to the growing field of books on LGBTQIA+ history. It’s absolutely packed full of information about people throughout history who were, generally speaking, not out as queer. The book includes letters from the subjects and people in their lives, autobiography excerpts, interviews, articles, and other excerpts from writing (for example, some of Shakespeare’s sonnets), which provide “proof” and historical context. One of the big draws of this book, beyond the content, is the format, which includes lots of pictures, text boxes, bits of primary source materials, subheadings, and little explanatory notes about parts of the materials. Instead of opening the book and finding long blocks of text, these busy and lively pages will engage readers who may otherwise find this kind of historical stuff intimidating.

While certainly interesting and educational as a whole, and worth reading all of, this is also the kind of book that encourages readers to dip in and out, reading about someone who may interest them more than others, or an identity that may be more of interest. The book includes extensive source notes, recommended resources, and an index. At the beginning, Wind helps set the scene for the book by talking about hidden histories, how he decided who to include in this book, some general notes (like on the term “in the closet” bi erasure, acronyms, info on primary and secondary source materials, and more.

A really interesting read with a conversational tone, vibrant format, and so much historical information. A necessary addition to collections.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781541581623
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/06/2021
Series: Queer History Project
Age Range: 12+

RevolTeens Fighting for Justice – For Themselves, by Teen Librarian Christine Lively

Teens are subject to so many rules that are a catch 22. They are visible and face serious adult consequences when they act out, but they’re still treated like children in so many circumstances. When they speak up for themselves, they can suffer backlash, criticism, silence, and even worse, denial of their experiences. They’re treated as a separate class of people – not believed and protected like children, and not respected and heard like adults. Teens often are met with contempt and their complaints can be brushed aside without any redress. Because they are ‘minors,’ their experiences aren’t even validated by being shared and discussed freely. The confidentiality that protects children, puts many teens’ experiences ‘out of sight’ of the adults around them, making them even easier to ignore.

So, what can teens, their families, and their communities do when they’re confronted with injustice?

I am proud to report here that at the school where I work, I’ve witnessed an excellent response to injustice suffered by teens, and this story offers some important lessons.

On March 5,  Wakefield High School football team from Arlington, Virginia played a game against Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia. The two schools are nine miles apart in Virginia and have played each other in football and many other sports over the years. This Friday night game was different and not just because it was played in the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because racist name calling and spitting marred the game and ultimately caused a confrontation that would make headlines.

After the game, there was an “altercation,” and three Wakefield players were given three game suspensions for fighting. The full story emerged on Wakefield player Lukai Hatcher’s Instagram account on March 17:

“Many of you have followed my football journey throughout my high school career. I am posting this on social media to bring attention to an incident that happened during my game on March 5th at Marshall High School in Fairfax County, VA. Me and my teammates were called racial slurs, taunted, and even spit on by Marshall players. We also experienced unfair treatment by each of the refs and were harassed from the sidelines by coaches and Marshall parents. We as a team complained to the refs all game about the way that we were being treated yet the flags were consistently thrown on us and even our coaches. The officiating that night was unfair. This build up of events during the game led to one of Marshall’s player’s spitting on one of our players. This caused an altercation between both teams and as a result, 3 of our players were given a 3 game suspension. We only have 3 games left. The 3 game suspension was appealed and is now down to 1. Marshall High School’s athletic teams have been known to demonstrate a culture of racism and unsportsmanlike behavior. We have experienced foul play on the basketball court as well. This isn’t new and enough is enough! We should not be punished for defending ourselves and each other especially because during the ENTIRE game the refs, who’s job it is to ensure each game is fair and who were supposed to protect and defend us, did not.

We are shining the light on the continuing culture of tolerance for unjust and discriminatory practices in sports for minority athletes and seeking accountability in support of change.

#biggerthanagame #changingtheculture #playfairnow

Because the football team members are all high school students, the school was not able to openly discuss what had happened on the field with the school community or anyone else – until Lukai courageously made the racist incidents public.

Since then, the Wakefield school community has come together behind our players and supported them. There have been statements condemning the lack of action by the officials at the game, and the racist acts themselves. The Principal at Wakefield, Dr. Christian Willmore sent a letter out to the Wakefield community including this:

“One student asked what they should do if this happened again,” wrote Dr. Christian Willmore. “I responded to the student that, first, I was extremely proud of the restraint they had shown for 2 1/2 hours and that they handled it exactly as they should have: they reported it to the referees and then with their coaches. In this case, the adults who were responsible failed them. I also informed them that in the future, all coaches have been instructed to leave the field/court immediately if our student-athletes are subject to racist, bigoted behaviors. Our student-athletes will not be put into a position like this again.”

News of the racist acts has been featured on the local news. An online petition has gathered over 13,500 signatures and asks for the following:

We would like to see the following happen:

1. An immediate apology from Marshall and their football program

2. An apology from the VHSL (The Virginia High School League)  for not ensuring fair play

3. A reversal of the suspension for the attacked players

4. Mandatory diversity and inclusion training for local athletes, coaches and officials.

# PlayFairNow

There has been a car parade for the community to drive past the current team while they stood side by side at the school. Two of the students who were attacked were guest co-anchors on the Wakefield Action Media News program and addressed the attack head on. They also offered advice for what students should do if they are ever in a similar situation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fboEdc-NJqc

There are some important lessons for RevolTeens from this racist attack and the response. First, what happens to you at school or a school event when you are under eighteen years old will be confidential to protect you. In this case, the Wakefield school community and the larger community were not told what happened and which students it happened to until those students posted their own stories on social media. In this case, that worked out well for the teens involved. They told their stories themselves and didn’t have to rely on others to speak for them. However, other teens with a less supportive community or students who are not believed could suffer attacks again on their credibility, etc. and the result would be additional trauma. The hard rule about confidentiality of minors is a problem because while it protects individual students’ identities, it keeps other individuals and the community in ignorance of attacks, problems, and other issues that may affect them. As DCist reported ‘Whytni Kernodle, president of the group Black Parents of Arlington, says Arlington Public Schools officials should not have waited until the incident blew up on social media to address it.

“When things like this happen, people need to know about it,” Kernodle says. “These are the things that my son and his friends have been talking about for almost two weeks. That’s completely and utterly inappropriate, and a failure on the part of the administration and the principal.”’

Until the confidentiality laws regarding teens are changed, these attacks and similar events will not and can not be shared with the community and so those teens who need help will be left alone to deal with the aftermath in silence and potentially shame.

Next, a strong community will stand up for teens who are facing injustice. Wakefield is located in South Arlington which is culturally, racially, and economically diverse. The school is proud of its diversity and works to value many voices. Though our community has been literally distanced for over a year now due to the pandemic, we have come together to support our football players and to stand against racism. If we were not a strong community dedicated to supporting each other, there may not have been such a unified and unequivocal response. Working to build strong communities can buoy teens who are fighting for change.

Finally, when teens do go public with what they’ve experienced, adults don’t always accept their report of events. A group from the opposing team’s school calling themselves “Concerned Parents of Marshall High School Varsity Football Players” has issued a statement denying that any racist attacks ever happened at all as our local ABC station reported

“None of us denies that racism exists in our society — and none of us condones bigoted or hateful words or actions. But what we can say for sure is that there is no culture of racism in our football program. There is no evidence of racial slurs and spitting by the Marshall players or harassment by our coaches, volunteers and spectators on March 5. The irresponsible perpetuation of these false allegations is causing real damage,” said the statement.

So, RevolTeens and the adults who love, care for, and respect them must continue to fight against injustice and discrimination just like Lukai Hatcher and his Wakefield High School teammates have. The choice to make his experience public through social media was one that has had consequences that have mostly been good and has drawn attention to a longstanding problem in our community. My hope is that our school will remain strong when our students are marginalized, attacked, shamed, or even just ignored. Every time a RevolTeen successfully calls out unfairness and injustice and finds support from caring adults, the world gets a little bit better, and the next teen who is hurt will feel just a little more confident about coming forward.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. I am a Certified Life Coach for Kids 14-24 and my website is christinelively.com. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively.

Recent and Forthcoming Books: Workman and Algonquin Young Readers Showcase

Look at all those books up there! They came in ONE haul. I was minding my own business in my house, eating some ramen and scrolling Twitter, when I heard a THUD from my front steps. Waiting at the door for me was this giant box of books from Workman. TRULY giant. Nearly 20 pounds.

The box contained both galleys of recent titles (that I’m guessing maybe weren’t shipped out prior due to COVID shutdowns—and many of these titles are now coming out soon in paperback) and galleys for titles coming out this month and beyond. I recently bought a little book cart to organize all my TLT review books. I may need another!

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to young readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, my kid’s school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.

I’m giving away a bunch of these books through my Twitter, in a giveaway for teachers and librarians only (ends April 4, 2021), so if you’re not already doing so, hop on over there and follow me.

Pull out your TBR lists or get ready to add to the orders for books that stock your library or classroom shelves. Today I’m sharing with you recent forthcoming titles from Workman Publishing and Algonquin. All annotations are from the publisher.

Books that are already out

The Oddmire, Book 2: The Unready Queen by William Ritter (ISBN-13: 9781616208400 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 06/23/2020 Series: Oddmire Series, Ages 8-12)

Human-raised brothers Tinn and Cole join forces with Fable, daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, to stop the fighting between the people of Endsborough and the creatures of the Wild Wood before violence turns into all-out war.  

Human and goblin brothers Cole and Tinn are finding their way back to normal after their journey to the heart of the Oddmire. Normal, unfortunately, wants nothing to do with them. Fable, the daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, has her first true friends in the brothers. The Queen allows Fable to visit Tinn and Cole as long as she promises to stay quiet and out of sight—concealing herself and her magic from the townspeople of Endsborough.

But when the trio discovers that humans are destroying the Wild Wood and the lives of its creatures for their own dark purposes, Fable cannot stay quiet. As the unspoken truce between the people of Endsborough and the inhabitants of the Wild Wood crumbles, violence escalates, threatening war and bringing Fable’s mother closer to the fulfillment of a deadly prophecy that could leave Fable a most Unready Queen.

In this second book in the Oddmire series, the New York Times bestselling author of Jackaby takes readers on an adventure full of monsters, mayhem, and magic.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby (ISBN-13: 9781616209070 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 06/30/2020, Ages 10+)

An own-voices LGBTQ novel from the acclaimed author of Hurricane Season, about eighth grader Brie, who learns how to be true to herself and to her relationships with family, friends, and faith.

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has, yet. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy edited by Kelly Jensen (ISBN-13: 9781616209674 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 08/18/2020, Ages 14-18)

It’s time to bare it all about bodies!
 
We all experience the world in a body, but we don’t usually take the time to explore what it really means to have and live within one. Just as every person has a unique personality, every person has a unique body, and every body tells its own story.
 
In Body Talk, thirty-seven writers, models, actors, musicians, and artists share essays, lists, comics, and illustrations—about everything from size and shape to scoliosis, from eating disorders to cancer, from sexuality and gender identity to the use of makeup as armor. Together, they contribute a broad variety of perspectives on what it’s like to live in their particular, unique bodies—and how their bodies have helped to inform who they are and how they move through the world.
 
Come on in, turn the pages, and join the celebration of our unique, diverse, miraculous, beautiful bodies!

The Constitution Decoded: A Guide to the Document That Shapes Our Nation by Katie Kennedy, Ben Kirchner (Illustrator), Kermit Roosevelt Contribution by) (ISBN-13: 9781523510443 Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. Publication date: 09/01/2020, Ages 10-14)

The ultimate guide to the US Constitution—and the history of the US through the law of the land—for middle grade readers ages 10+. The book decodes the original document with a direct translation of the text, dissecting every word, phrase and idea. Then it connects the document to major historical figures and events using full-color illustrations and examples of how the document works in practice.

Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1) by Amy Timberlake, Jon Klassen (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781643750057 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 09/15/2020 Series: Skunk and Badger #1, Ages 8-12)

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
 
No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
 
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”
 
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
 
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
 
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez (ISBN-13: 9781616209919 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 09/15/2020, Ages 14-18)

A powerful contemporary YA for fans of The Poet X and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life. 

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. 

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

Filled with authentic details and the textures of day-to-day life in Argentina, heart-soaring romance, and breathless action on the pitch, Furia is the story of a girl’s journey to make her life her own.

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke (ISBN-13: 9781645660002 Publisher: Erewhon Books Publication date: 09/15/2020 Series: The Scapegracers #1, Ages 14-18)

An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process.

Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends.

Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent on stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?

Rich with the urgency of feral youth, The Scapegracers explores growing up and complex female friendship with all the rage of a teenage girl. It subverts the trope of competitive mean girls and instead portrays a mercilessly supportive clique of diverse and vivid characters. It is an atmospheric, voice-driven novel of the occult, and the first of a three-book series.

Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 1) by Elizabeth C. Bunce (ISBN-13: 9781616209186 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 10/06/2020 Series: Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery, Ages 10+)

Introducing Myrtle Hardcastle, your favorite new amateur detective: a wickedly smart twelve-year-old with a keen interest in criminology and a nose for murder.

Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has a passion for justice and a Highly Unconventional obsession with criminal science. Armed with her father’s law books and her mum’s microscope, Myrtle studies toxicology, keeps abreast of the latest developments in crime scene analysis, and Observes her neighbors in the quiet village of Swinburne, England.

When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes he —not even her father, the town prosecutor.

With sparkling wit and a tight, twisty plot, Premeditated Myrtle, the first in a series from an award-winning author, introduces a brilliant young investigator ready to take on hard cases and maddening Victorian rules for Young Ladies of Quality in order to earn her place among the most daring and acclaimed amateur detectives of her time or any other.

How to Get Away with Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 2) by Elizabeth C. Bunce (ISBN-13: 9781616209193 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 10/06/2020 Series: Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery, Ages 10+)

Before the train has left the station, England’s most accomplished new detective already is on a suspect’s trail, and readers will be delighted to travel along. 
 
Myrtle Hardcastle has no desire to go on a relaxing travel excursion with her aunt Helena when there are More Important things to be done at home, like keeping close tabs on criminals and murder trials. Unfortunately, she has no say in the matter. So off Myrtle goes—with her governess, Miss Judson, and cat, Peony, in tow—on a fabulous private railway coach headed for the English seaside.
 
Myrtle is thrilled to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator aboard to protect the priceless Northern Lights tiara. But before the train reaches its destination, both the tiara and Mrs. Bloom vanish. When Myrtle arrives, she and Peony discover a dead body in the baggage car. Someone has been murdered—with Aunt Helena’s sewing shears.
 
The trip is derailed, the local police are inept, and Scotland Yard is in no rush to arrive. What’s a smart, bored Young Lady of Quality stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do but follow the evidence to find out which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer?

Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA by Nova Ren Suma, Emily X.R. Pan (ISBN-13: 9781643750798 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 10/20/2020, Ages 14-18)

13 Short Stories from Bold New YA Voices & Writing Advice from YA Icons

Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers.

Featured in print for the first time, the thirteen stories anthologized here were originally released via the buzzed-about online platform Foreshadow. Ranging from contemporary romance to mind-bending fantasy, the Foreshadow stories showcase underrepresented voices and highlight the beauty and power of YA fiction. Each piece is selected and introduced by a YA luminary, among them Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, and Sabaa Tahir.

What makes these memorable stories tick? What sparked them? How do authors build a world or refine a voice or weave in that deliciously creepy atmosphere to bring their writing to the next level? Addressing these questions and many more are essays and discussions on craft and process by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X.R. Pan.

This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults. A supplemental section of craft essays offers advice on subjects from technique to revision to publication.

So Embarrassing: Awkward Moments and How to Get Through Them by Charise Mericle Harper (ISBN-13: 9781523510177 Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. Publication date: 11/10/2020, Ages 8-12)

This lively nonfiction graphic novel for ages 8-12, from bestselling middle grade author-illustrator Charise Mericle Harper, dives deep into that everyday source of stress and humor for kids—embarrassment. With science facts, jokes, and compassion (and some slapstick) this book lets kids know they aren’t alone and puts them at ease.

Girlhood: Teens around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja (ISBN-13: 9781643750118 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 02/09/2021, Ages 12-18)

What does a teenage girl dream about in Nigeria or New York? How does she spend her days in Mongolia, the Midwest, and the Middle East? 

All around the world, girls are going to school, working, dreaming up big futures—they are soccer players and surfers, ballerinas and chess champions. Yet we know so little about their daily lives. We often hear about challenges and catastrophes in the news, and about exceptional girls who make headlines. But even though the health, education, and success of girls so often determines the future of a community, we don’t know more about what life is like for the ordinary girls, the ones living outside the headlines.

From the Americas to Europe to Africa to Asia to the South Pacific, the thirty teens from twenty-seven countries in Girlhood share their own stories of growing up through diary entries and photographs, and the girls’ stories are put in context with reporting and research that helps us understand the circumstances and communities they live in. This full-color, exuberantly designed volume is a portrait of ordinary girlhood around the world, and of the world, as seen through girls’ eyes.

Kids on the March: 15 Stories of Speaking Out, Protesting, and Fighting for Justice by Michael Long (ISBN-13: 9781643751009 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 03/23/2021, Ages 10-14)

From the March on Washington to March for Our Lives to Black Lives Matter, the powerful stories of kid-led protest in America. 
  
Kids have always been activists. They have even launched movements. Long before they could vote, kids have spoken up, walked out, gone on strike, and marched for racial justice, climate protection, gun control, world peace, and more.  
 
Kids on the March tells the stories of these protests, from the March of the Mill Children, who walked out of factories in 1903 for a shorter work week, to 1951’s Strike for a Better School, which helped build the case for Brown v. Board of Education, to the twenty-first century’s most iconic movements, including March for Our Lives, the Climate Strike, and the recent Black Lives Matter protests reshaping our nation. 
  
Powerfully told and inspiring, Kids on the March shows how standing up, speaking out, and marching for what you believe in can advance the causes of justice, and that no one is too small or too young to make a difference. 

Forthcoming books

How to Go Anywhere (and Not Get Lost): A Guide to Navigation for Young Adventurers by Hans Aschim, Nainoa Thompson (Foreword by) (ISBN-13: 9781523506347 Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. Publication date: 03/30/2021, Ages 9-12)

Born To Explore 

Get outside with this interactive boom that shows how explorers have found their way around the planet for thousands of years. Read about the ancient Polynesians who tracked the stars and waves  to sail precise paths through the ocean. Or the Age of European Exploration navigators who use compasses and dead reckoning to reach the New World. And learn the science behind radar and modern-day GPS satellites. Then discover how to do it yourself! With illustrated activities as well as handy tips throughout, you’ll learn the fascinating history and seriously useful skills to become a true navigator.
Up your adventure game and learn to:
—Find north and south by reading the trees
—Make a simple compass
—Use the stars to tell time
—Build a basic sextant
—Get your bearings using the sun
—Go treasure hunting with GPS

Hear My Voice/Escucha mi voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States by Warren Binford (Compiler), Michael Garcia Bochenek (Foreword by) (ISBN-13: 9781523513482 Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. Publication date: 04/13/2021, Ages 8+)

The Testimony of Children 

A moving picture book for older children and families that introduces a difficult topic, amplifying the voices and experiences of immigrant children detained at the border between Mexico and the US. The children’s actual words (from publicly available court documents) are assembled to tell one heartbreaking story, in both English and Spanish (back to back). Each spread is illustrated in striking full-color by a different Latinx artist. A portion of sales will be donated to human rights organizations that work with children on the border.

Enduring Freedom by Trent Reedy, Jawad Arash (ISBN-13: 9781643750408 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 05/18/2021, Ages 12-18)

On September 11, 2001, the lives of two boys on opposite sides of the world are changed in an instant.
 
Baheer, a studious Afghan teen, sees his family’s life turned upside down when they lose their livelihood as war rocks the country.
 
A world away, Joe, a young American army private, has to put aside his dreams of becoming a journalist when he’s shipped out to Afghanistan.
 
When Joe’s unit arrives in Baheer’s town, Baheer is wary of the Americans, but sees an opportunity: Not only can he practice his English with the soldiers, his family can make money delivering their supplies. At first, Joe doesn’t trust Baheer, or any of the locals, but Baheer keeps showing up. As Joe and Baheer get to know each other, to see each other as individuals, they realize they have a lot more in common than they ever could have realized. But can they get past the deep differences in their lives and beliefs to become true friends and allies?
 
Enduring Freedom is a moving and enlightening novel about how ignorance can tear us apart and how education and understanding can bring us back together.

How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby (ISBN-13: 9781643750361 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 05/25/2021, Ages 9-12)

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.
 
A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.
 
Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.
 
She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino, Bruno Navasky (Translator), Neil Gaiman (Foreword by) (ISBN-13: 9781616209773 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 06/15/2021, Ages 10-14)

Anime master Hayao Miyazaki’s favorite childhood book, in English for the first time.
 
First published in 1937, Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has long been acknowledged in Japan as a crossover classic for young readers. Academy Award–winning animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro,Howl’s Moving Castle) has called it his favorite childhood book and announced plans to emerge from retirement to make it the basis of a final film. 
 
How Do You Live? is narrated in two voices. The first belongs to Copper, fifteen, who after the death of his father must confront inevitable and enormous change, including his own betrayal of his best friend. In between episodes of Copper’s emerging story, his uncle writes to him in a journal, sharing knowledge and offering advice on life’s big questions as Copper begins to encounter them. Over the course of the story, Copper, like his namesake Copernicus, looks to the stars, and uses his discoveries about the heavens, earth, and human nature to answer the question of how he will live.
 
This first-ever English-language translation of a Japanese classic about finding one’s place in a world both infinitely large and unimaginably small is perfect for readers of philosophical fiction like The Alchemist and The Little Prince, as well as Miyazaki fans eager to understand one of his most important influences.

The Oddmire, Book 3: Deepest, Darkest by William Ritter (ISBN-13: 9781643750927 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 06/22/2021 Series: Oddmire Series, Ages 8-12)

The third adventure in the beloved fantasy series full of folklore and mayhem, from the creator of Jackaby.
 
Brothers Cole and Tinn—one human, one a goblin changeling—are determined to solve a mystery almost as old as they are: What happened to their long-missing father?
 
Joseph Burton vanished without a trace, leaving the baby boys’ mother to raise them alone. Some say he abandoned his family, others that he met foul play looking for a way to get rid of the changeling imposter. Cole is determined to finally push through the rumors and learn his father’s fate.
 
With the help of their friends—Evie, expert on the creatures of the Wild Wood, and Fable, the indomitable half human, half fairy—Tinn and Cole set out on a dangerous quest to the deepest, most deadly limits of the Wild Wood. Meanwhile a shudder runs through the forest. Increasingly powerful earthquakes shake the land, sinkholes form, and the spriggans, trolls, and other creatures along their path speak of an ancient evil on the rise . . .
 

Up All Night: 13 Stories between Sunset and Sunrise by Laura Silverman (Editor) (ISBN-13: 9781643750415 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 07/13/2021, Ages 12-18)

When everyone else goes to bed, the ones who stay up feel like they’re the only people in the world. As the hours tick by deeper into the night, the familiar drops away and the unfamiliar beckons. Adults are asleep, and a hush falls over the hum of daily life. Anything is possible.

It’s a time for romance and adventure. For prom night and ghost hunts. It’s a time for breaking up, for falling in love—for finding yourself.

Stay up all night with these thirteen short stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors like Karen McManus, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nina LaCour, and Brandy Colbert, as they take readers deep into these rarely seen, magical hours.

Full contributor list: Brandy Colbert, Kathleen Glasgow, Maurene Goo, Tiffany D. Jackson, Amanda Joy, Nina LaCour, Karen M. McManus, Anna Meriano, Marieke Nijkamp, Laura Silverman, Kayla Whaley, Julian Winters, Francesca Zappia

Walls by L.M. Elliott (ISBN-13: 9781643750248 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 07/27/2021, Ages 12-18)

Drew is an army brat, a hotshot athlete poised to be his high school’s star pitcher, when he has to move for the sixth time in fifteen years—this time to West Berlin, where American soldiers like his dad hold an outpost of democracy against communist Russia in Hitler’s former capital. Meanwhile, in East Berlin, his cousin Matthias has grown up in the wreckage left by Allied bombing during World War II, on streets ruled by the Communist Party’s secret police.
 
From the opposing sides of the Cold War, Drew and Matthias begin to overcome the many ideological walls between them to become wary friends. They argue over the space race, capitalism, socialism, and even the American civil rights movement, and bond over rock ’n’ roll—music outlawed in Matthias’s part of the city. If Matthias is caught by the Stasi’s neighborhood spies with the records or books Drew has given him, he will be sent to a work camp for “re-education.” At the same time, Drew’s friendship with the East Berlin Jugend—who ardently spout communist dogma—raises suspicions about his family’s loyalty to America. As the political situation around them gets all the more dire, Drew and Matthias’s loyalty—to their sector, their countries, their families, and each other—will be tested in ways that will change their lives forever.
 
Set in the tumultuous year leading up to the surprise overnight raising of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, and punctuated with real-life photographs, headlines, and personalities of the time, Walls brings to vivid life the heroic and tragic choices of the Cold War. 

Cold-Blooded Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 3) by Elizabeth C. Bunce (ISBN-13: 9781616209209 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 10/05/2021 Series: Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery, Ages 10+)

Twelve-year-old Young Lady of Quality and Victorian amateur detective Myrtle Hardcastle returns, and now she’s on the trail of a serial killer in her hometown of Swinburne.
 
When Mr. Leighton, proprietor of Leighton’s Mercantile, is found dead on the evening his annual Christmas shop display is to be unveiled, it’s clear a killer had revenge in mind. But who would want to kill the local dry-goods merchant? Perhaps someone who remembers the unresolved, long-ago scandal that occurred when he was a professor and archaeologist. When the killer continues to strike, ­­­each time manipulating the figures in the display to foretell the crime, Myrtle finds herself racing to uncover the long-buried facts of a historical scandal—and the motivations of a modern murderer. 

For Your Consideration: Five YA Lit Books Coming in April 2021 to Make Your TBR Piles Bigger

Here’s a brief look at 5 new YA lit books coming our way in April, because our TBR lists aren’t big enough.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Publisher’s Book Description:

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.

Karen’s Thoughts: I am halfway through this book and it’s such an interesting exploration of what happens after death, ethics and more. It’s very fascinating, compelling, and rich.

The Flipside of Perfect by Liz Reinhardt

Publisher’s Book Description: What happens when her two worlds collide?

AJ is a buttoned-up, responsible student attending a high-achieving high school in Michigan. She lives with her mother, stepfather, and two younger half sisters.

Della spends every summer with her father in Florida. A free-spirited wild child, she spends as much time as possible on the beach with her friends and older siblings.

But there’s a catch: AJ and Della are the same person. Adelaide Beloise Jepsen to be exact, and she does everything she can to keep her school and summer lives separate.

When her middle sister crashes her carefree summer getaway, Adelaide’s plans fall apart. In order to help her sister, save her unexpected friendship with a guy who might just be perfect for her, and discover the truth about her own past, Adelaide will have to reconcile the two sides of herself…and face the fact that it’s perfectly okay not to be perfect all the time.

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Publisher’s Book Description: Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.

When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single.

But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed.

Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve

Publisher’s Book Description: A moving YA debut about a trans boy finding his voice—and himself

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?

You Were Made for Me by Jenna Guillaume

Publisher’s Book Description: The day I created a boy started out like any other.

Katie didn’t mean to create a boy. A boy like a long-lost Hemsworth brother: six-foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day; whose lips taste like cookie-dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie.

He was meant to be perfect.

But he was never meant to exist.

These are just a few of the titles coming out in April.

Sunday Reflections: The Myth of the Book as Sacred Object

I have and will continue to fight hard to make sure that my child with dyslexia has the ability to read and to read well. The ability to read is liberation. Without the ability to read, you can’t sign a contract in confidence or get hired by an employer and stand up for yourself.

We forget, I think, that when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the church door he was taking power away from the Catholic church and giving it to the people; the power to read the Bible on their own and to determine their own course of spiritual well being. It changed everything about the world by making faith and spiritual practice more accessible.

When white people sought complete dominance and oppression of others, they did so by actively criminalizing reading. Literacy was an actual crime in early America, and to teach a slave to read was a criminal activity. Because even then we knew that literacy is liberation, well, it’s a step towards it. And while it’s true that systems of racism and oppression still exist today, it is also true that literacy is an important part in the ongoing fight against it.

The power of words and thought are so fierce that we find ourselves constantly fighting against misinformation and outright propoganda. All of human history is filled with outright blatant lies and propoaganda because we understand that words have power.

So many books to get organized!

So havin’t just stated that literacy is liberation, and a vital component of democracy, you may perhaps think it is odd that I titled this post The Myth of the Book as a Sacred Object. I love books. If the family lore is true, I taught myself to read at the tender age of 4 and just kept reading. I visited libraries as a young child and began working one at the age of 20. At the age of 48, I have now worked 28 years dedicated to helping to make sure that people have access to books. I believe in the power and importance of books.

I believe that books are magic. There is a power in a story. Words have meaning and they matter. They can also be deadly and dangerous. Public libraries are great and important parts of democracy. They are equalizers. They are gate crashers. They literally can transform the entire course of human history.

But it’s not really the books that do it, it’s the words inside them that do. The book is just a tool. It conveys thought, meaning, experiences, ideas, history and hope. Before there was the written word and the public library, there were oral traditions and ancient art. Humans have always been about stories, the means of delivery, however, is always changing. Words are powerful, the ability to communicate, in whatever form, is transformative, but books are not in and of themselves sacred objects. Not even to me, a book lover.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently following the controversy surrounding the Dr. Seuss books. Dr. Seuss (not his real name), wrote a ton of books and even after his deaths books bearing that name continue to be printed by the Dr. Seuss foundation. Dr. Seuss himself was racist, you can see the truth of this in some of the political cartoons he wrote, which I won’t be sharing here because they were really, really racist. And some of that racism appears in some of his books. Which is why the Dr. Seuss foundation chose to stop publishing 6 of the titles. You’ve probably heard about this, some people have been really upset about it.

I’ve thought about this a lot for a lot of reasons. But I also thought about this because some of the images in particular were racist about Asian people. Soon after foundation announced that they would no longer publish these books because of their racist depictions, a man went on a killing spree in Atlanta and murdered 8 people, many of whom were Asian American. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Dr. Seuss or these books were directly responsible for this event, though they certainly were one part of many that has fueled decades of harmful stereotypes about Asian people.

As I thought about these two events I thought about how I was thankful that this private entity had done this self-examination and made this decision to stop publishing these titles that promtoed harmful stereotypes because it is a step in the right direction for our world in general, but more specifically for Asian American people who have been facing increased racism and violence in the past year. It’s just a tiny step, and it probably won’t make much of a difference at all, but each tiny step in the right direction helps. Every step that we, as a people, make towards inclusion and equity is a step in the right direction.

But I’ve also thought a lot about the reaction to the Dr. Seuss foundation making this announcement. Suddenly, everyone cared very much about these books, some of which I bet people didn’t even realize had ever been published. Suddenly, these books becamse sacred, more sacred even then the ideas that they expoused or the people that they would hurt. As if the book itself was a sacred object.

The reality is, books go out of print every day. There are books that I bought for my library just last year that I couldn’t buy a replacement copy of today because they had a first printing and then . . . they’re just done. Part one of a series will be published and part two will never be published because part one didn’t sell enough copies. The reality is that every day decisions are being made that means you can no longer buy a book.

Books that are announced for publication never get published.

Books that are published never get reprinted.

Books fall out of backpacks and into puddles and they get weeded out of library collections and no replacement is bought.

Libraries weed. We have to if you want to read the newest books then we need to have shelf space for them.

The Teen spending time in the Teen MakerSpace

The reality is: you can not today walk into your local library and check out any and every book that has ever been published in all of human history. That’s just not feasible. Publishers, libraries, book stores, etc. make decisions every day about what’s available. Sometimes they are made for financial reasons. Sometimes they are made for spatial reasons. Sometimes they are made because the information is no longer relevant (country borders change, for example) or because it is no longer accurate. So why can’t those decisions be made because we have grown as a human race and have come to realize that those words, those depictions, are genuinely harmful to another human?

And even if you argue that a library can’t, the publisher – a free market capitalist entity – surely can. And we should not be surprised or disgusted by this. It is, in fact, how a free market economy is designed to work.

Many people acted as if a book, once published, is a sacred object that must always exist and that’s just not factually true. It never has been. It never will be. The Earth does not contain enough space to have an infinite number of books available. But also, books in and of themselves are not sacred objects. I would argue that what they do for society is. They are a tool of communication. They are a way to sit and process who we were, who were are, who we hope to be, who we can become. They are a means of conveying our thoughts and ideas and stories and truths . . . but at the end of the day, they are still only a tool.

I like as much as the next person to hold a book in my hand. I have a small collection of Winnie the Pooh books because that little bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood have always delighted me. But at the end of the day it is the stories and the characters and the illustrations and the writing style that delight me and that I hold so dear, not the physical book itself. In fact, if you work in a library long enough and see enough books that have passed through the hands of thousands of people or have set on a shelf for years unused or have been placed in a book drop after sitting in the corner of a house that leaked, you will learn quickly that there books can be as much menace as magic. If you have ever cracked the spine of a book to see it infested with cockroaches you will know that books are not always wondrous, magical things.

This idea that a book is somehow a sacred object ocassionally comes up when we talk about weeding and book donations as well. Recenlty someone tweeted because they had cleaned out their book shelves and offered to donate those books to their local library and they were disgusted that a librarian had suggested that they recycle the books. But sometimes, that is in fact that correct answer. Those old sets of encyclopedias that you have where the literal names and borders of countries have changed, they should be recycled. Those medical textbooks from when you were in nursing school ten years ago, those should also be recycled. Just rip the covers off and put the guts in your paper pulping bin. What we know about the world changes and some information can actually be outright deadly.

This idea that a library should be grateful for your personal discards because books are sacred shows that people don’t understand what goes into creating a good library collection. We run reports to find gaps and holes and make sure we have a wide variety of books that cover a wide variety of subjects. Our shelf space is limited and if we fill it with every person’s favorite books when they clean out their personal collections, well then we wouldn’t have the shelf space to create and maintain a comprehensive collection for a large public population. We don’t reject personal donations out of spite, but out of due diligence and careful consideration. It’s because we want to build the best library collections possible.

That is also why we weed. Weeding is the process of removing a book out of a collection and discarding it. The titles that libraries weed are often recycled in some way, whether they be donated to organizations that sell them, like local Friends groups that then use the money to support library programming, or sometimes they are – gasp – literally recycled. A book like everything else on the planet has a life cycle and it is not infinite.

As a librarian, I used to be a big proponent of the book as sacred object campaign. I think a part of it was job security; I want libraries to stay relevant and open for obvious reasons. But I have come to understand that libraries are more than just books and there is more than one way to access information, even stories. And libraries and librarians have always and will always be in the business of connecting people with information, whatever tool is used to convey that information. But I have grown and moved past this ideas that book in and of themselves are sacred objects. What they do for our world and the words within their pages, yes. Always. But the book themselves . . . they are just a tool.

Reading is liberation. Books are just a tool. But words . . . they can transform hearts and minds, for good or ill. I will not fight for a single book, but I will fight tooth and nail for the equity and access that comes from a public library.